Last summer, we wrote a series of blog posts about smart approaches to getting some sun. Starting with why sun exposure isn’t really the devil no matter what your mom says about skin cancer, moving on to everything you should know about suntan lotion but probably don’t, covering the use of UV-tracking apps to limit sun exposure to safe amounts, and ending with a pointer to antioxidant fern extract pills that research has shown works like sunscreen from the inside. With warm weather upon us again, all four are still worth the read.

But there’s at least one summer staple that isn’t worth it: aloe vera gel.

Though research on aloe vera for sunburns is surprisingly sparse, almost all the studies (like this one) conclude that aloe is no better than a placebo at reducing the pain or duration of a burn. 

And, indeed, though most clinical studies use carefully titrated medical-grade aloe creams, it turns out that most of the aloe vera gel sold at stores really is just a placebo: as of last year, researchers found that the store brands of aloe vera at Target, CVS, Wal-Mart, and elsewhere didn’t actually contain any aloe vera.

So save your $5 and refrigerator space, and stick with sunburn remedies that actually work: take a cool bath or shower, drink plenty of water, use moisturizer on the burn, and consider taking aspirin or ibuprofen to help reduce redness and pain.

See you at the beach!